William Shakespeare and the “feel good” environment of your local psychiatrist’s office (complete with chaise longue) collide in Antic Disposition, Catriona Scott’s new play set in a seemingly alternate universe where Shakespeare, or Dr. William Bard, is treating some of his most famous characters. While the show is labelled as a comedy, it contains a few less than light hearted moments that hint towards an underlying, less comedic, plot.
The script is a good work in progress, with Scott acknowledging her move towards a more ridiculous and whimsical style in the Director’s note. The situational comedy was successful, but the referential jokes and foreseeable puns were more hit and miss. I was disappointed in the predictability of the plot devices, which were too heavily hinted at in the program. The big twist – that the sessions were actually “all in the mind of Dr. Bard” – put a damper on the mood of the show, undermining the comedic premise, and raising unanswered questions about the interactions of the other “real” characters. The play couldn’t seem to make up its mind on whether it wanted to be funny or shocking, causing both its comedic and more serious moments to feel somewhat out of place. However, despite its clunkiness, the script showed promise for development and, given the opportunity, I would enjoy seeing what Scott does with it in the future.
As far as the production goes, the show was technically sound. Scene transitions, sound cues, and lighting were all incredibly smooth, and the simple, splitstage set allowed for interesting interactions between characters and spaces. But the decision to genderbend some of the characters was questionable. In a show that provides a commentary on “traditional” Shakespeare it was an unnecessary distraction. For example, while Eveliina Kuitunen’s portrayal of the selfabsorbed overactor Bottom, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream wasn’t disliked, her femininity (plus a shoddy attempt at masculine makeup) ultimately obscured what should have been a very familiar character.
However, the play’s main detractor was the quality of the acting. While smaller issues like entering or exiting a doorway in two different places, and poorly timed rebuttals when characters were supposed to be speaking over each other, could be attributed to lack of rehearsal or experience, the larger issues are harder to excuse. There was a lack of proper characterization from Eilidh Mackinnon and Rosie Beech (Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, respectively). It is not enough to read a character’s lines and expect to be embodying them. Felicity Guite gave a rather wooden and poorly considered performance of Miss Olivia Page, ignoring details vital to the audience’s investment in the show – if you don’t hear the imaginary voice of King Lear on the other side of the phone, the audience won’t either (and imaginary voices do take time to speak, so let them have a few moments before cutting in). Similarly, Patch Reynolds (Puck/Dr. Oxford) gave an incredibly inexpressive and unimaginative delivery – I saw no difference in the portrayal of a playful and mischievous fairy, and a cold, calculating psychologist. It is by no means easy to play Shakespeare, but I was certainly hoping to see a group of actors whose stage presence was felt because of strong acting, not loud proclamations or poorly conveyed sarcasm. Some actors, notably Peter Simpson and Milly Clover as Richard III and Lady Anne, gave more accomplished performances. Their complicated but loveable couple’s relationship was the most believable of the show. I felt Richard’s scenes to be the comedic highlight, not going for obvious wordplay or twisted quotes, but instead exploring unexpected and silly quirks in an otherwise feared and hated man.
Ultimately, I commend the playwright on her bold and daring venture outside her literary comfort zone. While the show had its moments – I did find myself laughing and intrigued by the interactions between Shakespeare and his creations – these were overshadowed by an unsuccessful production. Antic Disposition is a show based upon a sound idea that has not yet met its potential, and I wish the best of luck to Catriona Scott in the production of her future works.
Images from Katy Li